This course deals with the relationships, ones of mutual transformation, between humans and their natural environments. Drawing from archeological studies of past societies and from sociocultural studies of contemporary ones, we will consider how humans have engaged with their natural worlds throughout history, probe non-Western environmental epistemologies, examine discourses and processes of sustainability and collapse, explore the cultural (re)creation of nature, and consider the larger political and economic projects, including capitalist markets and property rights, in which much of current environmentalism is embedded. Most generally, the course will reveal the diverse ways in which people have shaped and been shaped by their physical worlds and how anthropology can clarify pressing, contemporary environmental issues.
This course explores the cultural, social, and political relationships between humans and other animals. Drawing from cross-cultural anthropological work, starting from histories of domestication, we will consider the participation of animals in different contemporary societies: as spirits, workers, food, commodities, symbols, domestic pets, unwanted pests, wildlife, friendly companions, and scientific objects. In general, we will interrogate the varied ways in which animals are central to human societies and cultures. We will bring these cross-cultural explorations home to explore, as researchers and writers, the social and cultural lives of animals around us--from art museums to pet shelters and organic farms--and to address pressing questions about animal agency, rights, and representation.